The Year in Review

The Year in Review

A look back at top news stories of '06

Here are Centre View’s top 12 stories for the year 2006, in chronological order.

<b>Westfield High Band Director Dies</b>

Laura McBride, Westfield High's band director, dies of breast cancer at age 48. First diagnosed in 1991, she went into remission, got married and had a successful career.

But the disease reappeared and claimed her life on Jan. 2. Afterward, the marquee outside the school read, "Laura McBride, WHS Band Director, 2000-05, Always in our Hearts."

Said her husband Robert: "Because of the radiation [treatments], she couldn't have kids of her own, so that's why she poured so much love into her kids at school. She wanted to make a difference and she really cared."

<b>Dead Animals Illegally Dumped</b>

<bt>Last December and January, more than 4,000 pounds of animal carcasses — many from Fairfax County — were discovered illegally dumped in West Virginia. Some were in George Washington National Forest in Hardy County, and others were found in a forested area near Capon Bridge, in Hampshire County.

At the time, the Fairfax County Animal Shelter contracted with Family Pet Cremations of Chantilly to dispose of its animals — and animals originating from Fairfax County were found at both sites. The culprit turned out to be Ronald Lee Henry Jr., 38, who worked full time for the shelter and part time for the cremation facility.

When the crematorium's incinerator was out of service, the business paid Henry to take the animal remains to a farm in Winchester and bury them there properly. Instead, he and two other men unloaded them above-ground in West Virginia.

On Oct. 12, Henry pleaded guilty in Hampshire County Circuit Court to unlawful disposal of litter — which, in West Virginia, carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a possible $25,000 fine. But his sentencing was deferred because he was recently indicted in federal court in Harrisonburg, Va., for an animal-dumping offense in another national forest.

<b>Cell-Phone Bandit Given 12 Years in Prison</b>

The "cell-phone bandit," Candice Rose Martinez, and her boyfriend/accomplice, Dave Chatram Williams — both 19 and of Chantilly's Shenandoah Crossing Apartments — were each sentenced in federal court to 12 years in prison.

The pair robbed four Wachovia Banks — one, with a .38-caliber revolver — and made off with $48,620. The story captured the public's fancy because, as Martinez confronted each teller, she continued talking on her cell phone to Williams, who was outside waiting in the getaway car.

But Martinez didn't wear a disguise because Williams, who once worked at the Wachovia in Vienna, told her the location of the bank surveillance cameras ... or so he thought. Soon, Martinez' image was on TV and in newspapers and magazines nationwide and both young robbers were captured.

The federal government prosecuted them, and both teens pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. On Feb. 24 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Williams received 12 years in prison — five years for the robberies and seven years for the gun charge.

On March 3, Martinez was given an identical sentence. Still, she said in court, "It could have turned out so much worse. Our mothers could be attending our funerals."

<b>Centreville Dog Park Opens</b>

To dog owners in the local community, the March 18 opening of a dog park in Centreville was of major significance. On three acres at 15150 Old Lee Road, near Braddock Road, this off-leash playground for pooches was the culmination of 2 1/2 years of work by CentrevilleDogs — a nonprofit group of 350 area residents and businesses — and the Fairfax County Park Authority. The group campaigned for, sponsored and maintains the park, and the Park Authority owns the land and built the facility.

Under the guidance of CentrevilleDogs' president, Kate Sims, the group raised $10,000 in money, grants and services, and the Park Authority matched it through its Mastenbrook program.

The area's first-ever dog park is divided into separate areas for large and small dogs, giving them a chance to get some exercise and socialize with other dogs.

<b>Principal Noonan Leaves Centreville</b>

After serving as principal of Centreville for less than two years, Peter Noonan resigned his post to become assistant superintendent of Cluster VII schools. This action yielded two later changes at Westfield High.

The principal there, Mike Campbell, left Westfield so he could become principal at Centreville. He lives in the area served by that school and wanted to head the high school his sons would attend. Eventually, Westfield's lead assistant principal, Tim Thomas, succeeded Campbell at the helm there.

<b>SYA Fields of Dreams Opens</b>

On March 25, SYA opened its first three fields in its long-awaited, Fields of Dreams youth sports complex in Centreville. The two rectangular fields — for lacrosse, football and soccer — and one baseball field, initially for T-ball, are the first of 11 fields planned for SYA's 116-acre site.

Nine years in the making, it was the culmination of former SYA President George Chernesky's dream, and he was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and field dedication, along with current SYA President Gary Flather.

<b>CPMSAC Founder, Shirley Nelson, Dies</b>

Chantilly's Shirley Nelson, founder of the Chantilly Pyramid Minority Student Achievement Committee (CPMSAC) died of a heart attack, March 27, while vacationing with her husband Johnny in Italy. She was 62.

Since she began the organization, more than 26 years ago, numerous minority students have received extra tutoring, mentoring and encouragement to improve their grades. And she's directly responsible for the honors and recognition these students receive each year during annual CPMSAC awards ceremonies.

<b>Korean Church Approved</b>

For 15 months, the 4,500-member Korean Central Presbyterian Church (KCPC) battled for permission to build a place of worship in Centreville. After 32 years in Vienna, it outgrew its facility and bought 80 acres along Route 29, next to Bull Run Elementary.

Since it's environmentally sensitive land, KCPC needed a special-exception permit from the county before it could relocate there. And it initially proposed a 205,000-square-foot place of worship. But the matter soon became contentious because of local residents' objections to the environmental and traffic problems such a large church could potentially cause.

Phase one, 175,000 square feet, was to be a 2,500-seat sanctuary with a rectory, 500-seat chapel, private school for grades K-2 and nursery school. Phase two was another 30,000 square feet for more office and educational space. A future child-care center is also planned.

On Jan. 26, the Planning Commission said KCPC could build there, provided it have 400 less seats — 1,700 in the sanctuary and 400 in the chapel — thereby reducing phase one to 173,000 square feet.

Then on April 3, acting on Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey's motion, the Board of Supervisors upheld the smaller number of seats, but let the church decide how to apportion them between the chapel and sanctuary. And for the time being, just phase one was OKed.

The Korean community is one of the largest and fastest growing in the Centreville/Chantilly area.

"It's important that we allow people to have their houses of worship," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly. "And sometimes, government needs to get out of the way to allow this to happen."

<b>Two Sully District Police Officers Killed</b>

On May 8, Det. Vicky Armel, 40, of the Sully District Police Station, became the first officer slain in the line of duty in the 66-year history of the Fairfax County Police Department.

Responding to a report of a carjacking, she'd just come outside the station, into the back parking lot, when she and other officers there were ambushed by a teen-ager armed with five handguns, an AK-47 assault weapon and a long-barreled, high-powered rifle.

MPO Mike Garbarino's shift had just ended, and he was in his car when Michael W. Kennedy, a mentally disturbed 18-year-old from Centreville, began firing into his vehicle. Garbarino, 53, radioed in the shooting and warned other officers what was happening.

Attracting Kennedy's attention to divert him from Garbarino, Armel fired several shots at the teen, even after being wounded herself. But Kennedy — eventually killed in the shootout — fired more than 70 rounds in all and took the lives of both Armel and Garbarino.

She was pronounced dead that day at Inova Fairfax Hospital, and Garbarino died there of his wounds, nine days later.

Individually, each officer's cruiser was parked in front of the police station, and people from all over covered the vehicles with flowers and heartfelt messages. Candlelight vigils were held in tribute and both officers were buried with honors.

Their deaths affected not only their families and friends, but the law-enforcement community and area residents, as well. Said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully): "The hole in the community's heart is as big as the void in the police department's."

The two deaths brought home the fact even more that police officers — even in as seemingly safe a county as this one — put their lives on the line every day.

Both Garbarino and Armel left spouses and children, and trust funds were established for them. Checks, payable to either Armel Family Trust Fund or Garbarino Family Trust Fund may be sent to those names, c/o Fairfax County Federal Credit Union, 4201 Members Way, Fairfax, VA 22030.

Shortly before Christmas, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce announced that both Garbarino and Armel will receive gold medals at the chamber's annual Valor Awards luncheon, March 1. Also receiving one will be Officer Richard Lehr, who engaged Kennedy in gunfire during the tragedy.

<b>Hunter Hardware Closes</b>

When Hunter Hardware closed its doors for good on Nov. 30, it marked the end of an era in Centreville — a time when friends gathered there Saturday mornings for coffee, camaraderie and the latest gossip.

John C. Hunter and sons Jack and Herb owned the store from November 1951 to the late 1980s, when Centreville's Roger Bostic purchased it. However, he'd worked in it since age 12 and maintained its small-town heart and ambiance.

But when he died of a heart attack in June, the store was too much for his wife and daughter to carry on by themselves and they decided to close it. While area residents understood, they still felt sad because an irreplaceable part of Centreville's history is now lost.

Calling Hunter Hardware a Centreville tradition and a real, Centreville landmark, Virginia Run's Jim Hart said, "There aren't many businesses here that have been around as long as that one."

<b>Virginia Run Elementary Teacher Murdered</b>

Tragedy also struck Virginia Run Elementary School when teacher Julie Mansfield Adams, 52, was found murdered in her Annandale home, Nov. 25. Authorities believe she was killed by the man with whom she'd lived for the past six years.

She'd taught three years at Virginia Run, working with fourth-graders with special needs and learning challenges. "We've lost a good friend, and I have, too,” said Principal Terry Hicks. "She was incredibly energetic and positive in her approach to life. And she was a dedicated teacher, well-liked by the other teachers, students and staff."

<b>Convictions Follow DNA Match</b>

In November 1991, a 19-year-old Chantilly woman was raped and sodomized by two masked men who threatened her with a knife. She reported the crime to police and DNA evidence was collected from her. But since she never saw her attackers' faces, there were no suspects and the case went unsolved for years.

However, a positive DNA match in February 2005 led to the arrest of Donald Harmon Roper, 40, of Fredericksburg, as well as Troy Darrell Holland, 38, of Charles Town, W. Va. Both men later stood trial separately in Fairfax County Circuit Court, and juries found them each guilty of rape, abduction with intent to defile, robbery and two counts of forcible sodomy.

On Dec. 1, Roper was sentenced to 115 years in prison — the jury had recommended 120. Holland's trial was Dec. 4-5, and his jury recommended he receive three life terms plus 17 years. He's scheduled for sentencing Jan. 19.